Cat with tail upright
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Cat tail language: How your cat uses their tail to tell you how they're feeling

By Zoë Monk Content Writer

Published on the

Did you know that cats talk with their tails? Here we'll explore how cats use their tails to communicate with their humans and other cats.

If you've ever wondered how your cat feels, look at what they are doing with their tail. Whether straight up in the air, tucked underneath or flicking back and forth, it reflects your feline friend's current mood. So how do cats communicate with their tails?

How do cats communicate with their tails?

Cats use their tails as a form of nonverbal communication to express various emotions and intentions. You can easily tell a cat's mood by simply looking at their tail. Here are a few examples:

  • A high, upright tail is a sign of confidence and dominance. You'll often see it when a cat is feeling assertive or trying to establish dominance over other cats
  • A tail held low and tucked between the legs can indicate fear or submission. A cat may also hold their tail like this to show that they are not a threat
  • Rapid twitching or flicking of the tail can indicate agitation or excitement. You'll usually see this behaviour when a cat is stalking prey or playing with a toy
  • Slow, gentle tail swaying can indicate a relaxed and contented mood. A cat will often do this with their tail when they are grooming themselves or sitting in a comfortable spot
  • A puffed-up, bushy tail can mean a cat feels threatened or defensive
  • Cats also use their tails to signal to other cats through scent marking. A cat rubs its tail against objects or other cats, releasing the pheromone Felininec to signal it's their territory

Tail position: Cat moving tail from side to side

A cat moving its tail from side to side can indicate several things, depending on the context and the specific movement:

  • The cat might be trying to express agitation or excitement. This type of tail movement often occurs when a cat is stalking prey or playing with a toy. The tail's rapid movement can signify that the cat is preparing to pounce or that it is highly engaged in an activity
  • When feeling threatened or defensive, a cat may move its tail from side to side, puff up the tail or arch its back, indicating that the cat is ready to defend itself
  • When feeling curious, a cat may move its tail from side to side to signify that the cat is trying to get a better look at something or locate a sound or smell
  • Lastly, a cat may move its tail from side to side when feeling relaxed and content. This movement can be gentle and slow, indicating that the cat is comfortable and at ease

Tail position: Cat tapping tail

Cat tail tapping may indicate that the cat is feeling annoyed or impatient. The tail tapping may be accompanied by other body language cues, such as flicking its ears or twitching its whiskers. This behaviour may signify that the cat wants to be left alone or wants something, such as food or attention.

It could also signify the cat's excitement or curiosity about something, such as a new toy or person. But remember, every cat has a unique personality, and their tail tapping can be unique to them.

Tail position: Cat wagging tail while lying down

When a cat is lying down and wags its tail, it may indicate that it feels happy and content. This type of tail wagging can signify that the cat is relaxed and at ease and is enjoying the current situation. The tail wagging may also be accompanied by purring or kneading.

However, it's also important to note that cats may use their tails with other body language cues to communicate a specific message. For example, a cat may wag its tail while lying down, but if its ears are back, it may indicate agitation and not contentment. Also, some cats may tend to wag their tails even when they are feeling stressed or anxious.

It's best to observe their body language as a whole, including their ears, whiskers, eyes, and tail, to better understand their mood. It's also important to note that many factors, such as genetics, environment, and past experiences, can influence cat tail-wagging behaviour.

Tail position: Cat tail up

When a cat holds its tail up, it is typically a sign that the cat is feeling confident and alert. This position is often seen when a cat feels assertive or tries to establish dominance over other cats.

The tail held up high can also indicate that the cat is curious and paying attention to its surroundings. It is a natural instinct for cats to hold their tail high to detect potential prey or predators. Additionally, a tail held up high can also be a sign of friendliness, as some cats will hold their tails up high when they are approaching or interacting with people or other animals they are familiar with and comfortable around.

Understanding how cats communicate with their tails can help you feel more connected to your feline friend, know what makes them stressed or unhappy and when they are happy and content.

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